Thursday, 21 January 2010

Post of Revelation(s)

My trip to the outback town of Coober Pedy was followed by three unavoidable days on a bus. I went from Adelaide, through South Australia and into Victoria, round the Grampians National Park, along the Great Ocean Road and ended up in Melbourne. Deftly illustrated by Googlus Mapus, below:

I had two revelations along the way.

Revelation Number One:
Tour buses are an expensive gamble. Your enjoyment of the journey is ultimately dependent on three things:

- you
- the other people
- the driver.

Get all three spot on, and you're drunk onboard, weeing in the desert and having a jolly good time. Get one without the others, and you've just spent $355 on an excursion to the City of Despair (more on that later). The object is not to spend 3 days head lolling, staring gormlessly at the seat in front. To prevent this, you need the opposite of my fellow passengers on the Christmas tour, who were only marginally less exciting than a game of Trivial Pursuit in a nursing home.

This time around, the passengers weren't the problem. The tour driver, faced with a talkative mixed group of nationalities and personalities, chose to spend his time casually reading the job section of the paper instead of helping to make our trip one to remember. In return for our $355, we wanted food, accommodation and his tour guidery knowledge along one of Australia's best known drives. But on the first day he declared that unless we asked, he wasn’t going to tell. He insisted on being just a 'glorified bus driver' when in fact, he was just in denial about what his job required. He was the missing link in what could have been a bloody good trip for all involved. In response, I pulled a face in every group photo he took. Maturity was always my strong point.

Revelation Number Two: Australia does a lot of things very well; beautiful expanses of desolate landscape, spectacular sunsets, impossible rock formations, rivers, beaches, gorges, national parks, wildlife, road kill and plain old chilling out. Then we have the cities. Aussie cities are functional, clean, set in grids, and some have a beach. They're fine for a couple of days, or if you're there on a working holiday visa. But when you’re a Londoner who's here for three months, coming to Australia and spending your time in a city is like going to fat camp and gorging on lard. Same thing, different place, boring as arse.

Which brings me to Melbourne, where I was dropped off on Saturday. The heat wave passed while I was sampling the wonders of underground living in Coober Pedy, and was fast being replaced by cold and clouds. It’s a city which, if I’d chosen to stay any longer than a day, I’d probably get to know, get to like, then get progressively unhappy about not being somewhere else. So my day in Melbourne can be summed up like this: It rained, so I paid $10 and went to watch Federer, Nadal, Serena et al play charity tennis. Apologies my Victoria based readers: No doubt there's more to see, more to say; but not this girl, not this trip.

With three weeks left in Australia, my next logical stop was Canberra or Sydney.

Needless to say, with tour bus or cities firmly off the radar for now, I needed a Plan B. Luckily, a small portion of my brain survived the bus trip. I picked up my phone, sent a text to my sister and hoped the offer still stood.

"Bonjour. You know your mate? I'm heading in that direction and I've got 3 weeks spare. Do you reckon he still needs help...?"


Al said...

Melb is gorgeous if the weather is right... but it always seems to be crappy there! There is lots to see if you are with a local, but if you are not its like a hidden city and just looks blah.

If you get to Sydney and are bored contact me!

Fen said...

wow, sorry to hear you missed out on the delights of Melbourne. Even on a rainy day there is a plethora of really awesome things to see and do. I guess you gotta be in the know. Though a day isn't really long enough to do much at all.

Brennig said...

Melbourne seems to be the musical capital of Oz, our podcast gets more submissions from Melbourne-based bands than anywhere else in Australia.

Anonymous said...

I'm so jealous you got to see the tennis!!

Grump said...

I am dumbfounded, you came to Melbourne [The most European city in Australia.] Full of cafes and live music. Great markets and shops, and only stayed a day.
As for the weather, we have had appx ten years of drought. So any rain we can get is a bonus and we look forward to the rain.
As you know I came to Australia from the UK 30 years ago. I grew up in Kew just outside London, the west end was my back yard from 18 years onward.
Melbourne compares very favourably with London. But it has one great advantage. You can get around it with out too much trouble. Our population is still manageable.
Sorry to hear you missed out on a great city to spend a few days.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Knew I was gonna get lynched for this one. ;)

Look, it's not that I disliked Melbourne. It's just I'm FROM a city. I'm from one of the biggest cities in the world. I can do city any day of the week when I'm at home, the bars, the cafes, the museums. That's not what I came to Australia to experience. Grump, read what I write: I know there's more to see, do and appreciate about Melbourne. I just don't have the time or the patience, or state of mind, or company, to experience it. What good are bars, clubs and cafes if you're sitting there alone? Personally, that's something I enjoy doing with others.

From past experience, as a backpacker on her own, a city can be a lonely place. The hostels aren't all that sociable unless you're staying for a while as most people are long termers. The one I was in was near impossible to meet people and everyone in my tour split up.

Plus with the Australian Open starting on Monday, which meant all the hostels (including mine) was fully booked from then, and more expensive.

Excuses done :)

Al - Thanks for the offer, but I'll be heading to Sydney for just a night when I leave where I am now in time to catch my flight. Then I'm returning with the boyf in April to show him round. :)

Fen - You're right, see my explanation above.

Brennig - Ha! Those culture cool Melbournites eh!

roseski - It was a really good afternoon I have to say. Especially as their grunts were amplified by microphones, very amusing.

Grump, see above. It's not you / Melbourne,'s me and my need to get out and do something different with my time here. Remember, I've visited 4 cities in less than 2 months so far. Give me a break (I need one!)

Robbie said...

Nice map skills Jo.

Your last few posts have really put me in the mood to read some Bill Bryson, did you ever read his Down Under? If not you should look for a copy next time a book store is around. Might give you ideas of what to look for in your last few weeks.


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